Truman was sworn in as President of the United States on April 12, 1945, upon the death of Franklin Roosevelt. He immediately met with Roosevelt’s cabinet members and asked them all to stay on. It was at this meeting that he first became aware of “the Allies new, highly destructive weapon.”
On April 25, 1945, President Truman was briefed by Secretary of War Henry Stimson about this new weapon. The decision was now his. Do we drop the bomb on Japan?
On the morning of May 8, 1945, Truman celebrated his 61st birthday by announcing to the press, and then the nation, of Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day).
“This is a solemn but glorious hour…For this victory, we join in offering our thanks to the Providence which has guided and sustained us through the dark days of adversity.”
“I only wish that Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to witness this day.” Truman dedicated the victory to the memory of Franklin Roosevelt, who had died of a cerebral hemorrhage less than a month earlier, on April 12, and ordered the Flags to remain at half-staff for the remainder of the 30-day mourning period.
Truman added that the war was not over and the full weight of the American military would now be directed against Japan.
On July 25, 1945, Truman’s diary read: “We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark.”
Japan was asked to surrender as specified in the Potsdam Declaration, or face “prompt and utter destruction.” When they refused, President Truman issued the order. The first atomic bomb, Little Boy, was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The second bomb, Fat Man, was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9. Truman announced the surrender of Japan on August 14, which effectively ended World War II, although not all hostilities ceased.
Officials of the Japanese government signed the Instrument of Surrender at Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, aboard the USS Missouri. General Richard K. Sutherland was present to witness the signing.
Truman had been President only 144 days when Japan surrendered, but his life in the White House had just begun.
The debate continues even today about the wisdom of dropping the bombs on Japan, but Truman never second-guessed his decision.
“As President of the United States, I had the fateful responsibility of deciding whether or not to use this weapon for the first time. It was the hardest decision I ever had to make. But the President cannot duck hard problems—he cannot pass the buck. I made the decision after discussions with the ablest men in our Government, and after long and prayerful consideration. I decided that the bomb should be used in order to end the war quickly and save countless lives—Japanese as well as American.”
Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County, Missouri, and has written HISTORICALLY YOURS for the Boonville Daily News for over ten years. She has covered the War Between the States, US history, and Cooper County history. In celebration of Missouri’s upcoming Bicentennial, she has syndicated her column statewide and encourages readers all over the Show Me State to submit topic suggestions for future columns to HistoricallyYours.email@example.com.